3 Indians will be in contention for medals in javelin at Paris Olympics: Neeraj Chopra

New Delhi: The defending champion in Olympic Games’ javelin throw competition, Neeraj Chopra anticipates that three Indians will be in contention for medals in the upcoming Paris 2024. He emphasized the need for India to carry forward the belief from the World Championships in Budapest, where Indian throwers held three out of the top six in the final.

India’s javelin stars will kick off the outdoor season in the Doha leg of the Diamond League season on May 10. Leading the challenge will be reigning world champion Chopra and his comrade-in-arm, Kishore Jena.

The events, including the Federation Cup in Bhubaneswar on May 14-15, leading to Paris 2024 will also evaluate the returns from some intense overseas training under top coaches.

Chopra and Jena, who produced a historic gold-silver finish at the Hangzhou Asian Games, have both qualified for the upcoming Summer Olympics in July-August, but Chopra believes a third javelin thrower, DP Manu, should make the Paris cut as well.

“There was a time when I was not even sure of qualifying for a World Championship but see how times have changed. In Budapest last year, we had three Indians (out of the top six) in the finals and that has made us believe we are no less than the Europeans who have dominated world javelin for so long. We have to take this Budapest belief forward and in Paris anything is possible,” Chopra told SAI Media.

Manu is in line to join Chopra and Jena in Paris 2024. Manu is yet to breach the qualifying standard of 85.50 metres but is placed comfortably in the 11th spot in the Road to Paris rankings. That should be enough to earn him a ticket to Paris unless several others pass him and he is unable to improve his own distance.

At the Indian Grand Prix I in Bengaluru recently, Manu won the men’s javelin throw competition with an effort of 81.91m, adrift of the Paris Olympics qualification mark of 85.50m and his personal best of 84.35. He had been training in Potchefstroom, South Africa with his coach Kashinath Naik, a former Commonwealth Games bronze medallist.

Leading up to the new outdoor season and until the Olympics, proper and intense training has been a top priority for the javelin throwers and all three – Chopra, Jena and Manu – have benefited from the government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) that funds athletes to prepare and peak at global events, especially the Summer Games.

In the current Paris Olympics cycle, Government has spent more than Rs 4.87 cr on these three javelin throwers with Chopra receiving close to Rs 4 cr alone. The major expenses include training and competition related, equipment, coach’s salary and out-of-pocket allowances.

Chopra said he had always paid attention to his overseas training and has meticulously chosen his competition schedule so that he is fully prepared ahead of a major global event. It will be no different ahead of Paris. “The entire scenario changes when you arrive at the Games Village. The real pressure starts building up then. But I should be prepared,” said Chopra.

The 26-year-old Chopra attributed his preparedness to the training he has undergone overseas at different international centres in Finland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Turkey at various times.

The reigning Diamond League champion said, “After Tokyo, I found out how international athletes plan their schedule and choose their training centres so that there is minimum travel, quicker acclimatisation and proper diet leading up to a major event. These are finer details that I discuss with my coach and once a decision is made, we approach TOPS for assistance. It has worked well for us.

“Success depends on teamwork. My coach and physio make immense contributions. The coach reviews my technique and we talk about what’s the best style for me. We also have a specialist for strength training. Planning has been key,” said Chopra.

A foodie at heart, Chopra says adjusting to a proper diet has been part of a process that has helped him to get better. It’s a bit of a sacrifice too for a Haryanvi lad who loves his homemade churma and gulab jamun with ice cream.

“Yes, you have to get used to some bland food. Initially, it was tough when I was not getting Indian food but I have got used to this not-so-tasty food,” said Chopra, adding that his diet is largely vegetarian.

Chopra emphasised that while “belief” will play an important part going forward from Doha, he cautioned that performance can never be guaranteed. “It will be on how we do on that day. I strongly believe we all are training hard and doing a Budapest encore is not impossible,” he said.

Chopra, who threw a world-leading 88.67 meters to win the gold medal last year in Doha, will start as a favourite in a field that is expected to feature Jakub Vadlejch (Czech), Anderson Peters (Grenada), Max Dehning (Germany) and Jena among others.


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